After making the decision to cut your energy costs by investing in solar panels, the next choice you need to make is which solar installation type is best for you. You will have to choose between a rooftop solar installation or a ground-mounted solar installation, and more and more solar purchasers are opting for ground-mounted solar panels.
Both rooftop solar and ground mount solar installations are the same cost on a per-watt basis. However, there are many other considerations that can help you make the best choice for your home – sometimes ground-mounted solar panels are the best option, yet few homeowners are even aware they’re a choice. We take a look at the factors you should consider when evaluating if ground-mounted panels or roof-mounted panels make more sense in the article below.
What are ground-mounted solar panels?
As their name suggests, ground-mounted solar panels are ones that are installed on the ground, as opposed to the roof. Ground installations can be larger than roof installations because there is usually more space in the yard.
Types of Non-Rooftop Solar Mounts:
There are two types of ground-mounted solar installations: Ground mounts, with no moving parts, and pole mounts, which have moving parts.
Solar Ground Mounts:
These installations consist of a durable frame that is fastened directly to the ground. The frame is custom-designed to hold the specified number of panels that the installation requires. They are installed at an angle of 30 degrees facing directly south in order to maximize the absorption of sunlight and produce the most energy output. One of the major advantages of using ground-mounted solar panels is the fact that panels are easily accessible for maintenance and cleaning.
Solar Pole Mounts:
Pole-mounted solar panels are characterized by a sturdy rack or frame that is built to hold a set of solar cells that are mounted to a single pole. Depending on the type of rack used, the pole can hold up to sixteen solar panels per pole. A big benefit of using a solar pole mount is that the panels will follow the sun throughout the day, much like a sunflower.
This allows them to produce more energy than stationary panels because the sun is constantly hitting the panels at an optimal angle. Pole-mounted installations take up much less space than ground-mounts because they are not spread out over your backyard. Also, pole mounts allow you to easily access the space under the panels since they are usually about six feet off the ground.
While there are quite a few benefits to having solar mounted on poles, there are some additional considerations. Since the panels are moving, they require more maintenance than stationary panels. Any technology that has moving parts has a higher probability that it will need replacement parts before the stationary ground mounts.
When Should You Opt for Ground-Mounted Solar Panels?
You should consider the following points when evaluating whether a ground-mounted solar installation is the best choice for your home. Investing in ground-mounted solar panels can be the right choice for your home, depending on your property’s characteristics. When making the decision of which type of solar installation to choose, it comes down to whether your roof or yard is a suitable site for solar, and which option will generate the most power for your needs. Having a ground installation makes sense for people whose homes have the following characteristics:
- Your roof does not have a clear South, East, or West-facing exposure. Orientation is extremely important when it comes to installing solar panels. If your roof can’t accommodate the ideal angle for installation that the panels require, or there are too many obstacles creating shade, then ground-mounted solar panels would certainly be the right choice for you.
- The property you own has a large open space where you can install a sufficiently sized installation. If you own a property that has a lot of unused land, you can install a larger system and in that way generate more power and savings.
- Your roof is old and will need to be replaced in the near future. Roofs need to be replaced every couple of decades. If your roof is older and may need to be replaced or repaired within the next 10 years or so, a rooftop installation may not be the best choice.
Installing solar on a roof that isn’t in the best condition will bring you the added expense of taking the panels off and re-installing them when the roof is replaced or fixed. In fact, many solar companies will not install solar on a roof that is too old or in bad condition.
- Your roof is made of clay tiles which makes it slightly more difficult and costly to install solar panels (but not impossible). Some people also don’t like the look of solar panels on their roofs. If this is the case, a ground installation can solve these issues.
- You don’t have the luxury of a large roof but have a large property.
When is Rooftop Solar the Best Choice?
A rooftop solar installation means that the solar panels are mounted directly to your roof. Installing rooftop solar panels may be your automatic choice because of how common they have become, however, there are a few factors to consider before moving forward. There are certain criteria that your roof and house must meet in order for a rooftop solar installation to make sense, both financially and structurally:
Related: Best Solar Panel Kits
Characteristics of a Good Roof for Solar:
- Your roof gets good light and faces South (which is ideal), East or West.
- No nearby trees or buildings (essentially no objects casting shade on your roof). Trees shading your roof can be trimmed, but sometimes they’re too large or poorly positioned to be dealt with without cutting them down.
- Your roof is free of excessive antennas, chimneys or skylights. Objects like this on a roof can be an obstacle to installing rooftop panels due to constraints on physical space, as well as potentially shading your roof.
- Your roof is strong enough to support a sufficiently large installation to power your home – panels aren’t terribly heavy, but they do add an extra strain on the roof.
- Installing rooftop solar panels is allowed by the homeowner’s association where you live (occasionally, homeowner’s associations will ban rooftop panels, but not ground mounts).
- You want to keep the panels out of reach from your family or pets.
- Rooftop panels aren’t permitted in your region.
Related: Solar Installation On Roof
As you can see, there are a wide variety of factors to consider when evaluating ground-mounted solar panels versus roof-mounted solar panels. While the majority of residential installations are still roof-mounted, more and more homeowners, especially those with sufficient space, are opting for ground mounts.